The idea of Industry 4.0 is not limited to the major industrial nations. The Dutch machine and plant builder sector, too, is focusing its digitalisation knowledge on a future-oriented initiative called "Smart Industry". The Festo eXperience Centre at Festo in the Netherlands is an important building block for this initiative.
Wind mills and water, tulips and tomatoes are probably the first things that come to mind when thinking about the Netherlands. Tulips and tomatoes represent the most productive and most automated agricultural sector in the world with innovative global market leaders in food processing and packaging technology, agricultural machines and handling technology. Limited space together with a high population density are conducive to being inventive and finding highly automated solutions. Examples are the milking robots from Lely and the tomato sorting machines from Visser, both buyers of Festo automation technology.
Consulting and development partners
Other fast growing sectors are the electronics industry, small parts assembly, medical technology, laboratory automation, as well as the process industries such as the pharmaceutical and chemical sectors. Festo Netherlands is developing more and more into a consulting, technological and development partner for its more than 5000 customers in all industry sectors. "Our customers are becoming increasingly aware of our expertise in topics such as digitalisation which is making us one of the driving forces of the Dutch initiative Smarty Industry," explains Dennis van Beers, Manager of Festo Benelux.
"The entry into the age of digitalisation has made us recognise how the digital experiences of customers develop and how to respond to them," Van Beers continues. Digitalisation leads to entirely new demands on real and virtual customer contact, the speed of the response to customer needs, but also on open software systems and connectivity of automation products. "This means it is important to guide and support our customers during the transition into a new age," emphasises the automation expert.
"The Festo eXperience Centre at Festo Netherlands was merely the logical consequence of this development," according to Van Beers. It is based on the motto of Apple founder Steve Jobs: "You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around" and set up as a kind of experience park for customers. The aim is to create the look and feel of a start-up atmosphere by facilitating working on joint projects and trying out new product solutions.
The high tables and chairs establish a relaxed atmosphere in which users and customers can discuss all topics related to the Digital Customer Journey, the digital value chain of the customer, with the Festo engineers. The displays and exhibits encourage users to try out different solutions as part of a trial-and-error process.
Inspiration and experience
Customers can also be inspired by the ideas promoted by the Bionic Learning Network from Festo. They learn technologies relevant for the age of digitalisation in the "Future Learning Lab" from Festo Didactic. At several stations covering the building and operation of a plant, they can see software solutions for designing electric and pneumatic axes and handling systems, they get to know about the manufacturer-independent integration of Festo controllers in different fieldbus systems, discover the use of Motion Apps on the Festo Motion Terminals and find out more about monitoring and visualisation using dashboards via the cloud and the IoT gateway CPX/IOT.
In the first year since it was opened, more than 1500 customers have used the Customer eXperience Centre to develop solutions together with Festo engineers. The concept is catching on in the Festo world: in China, too, several Festo eXperience Centres in different sales regions have been successfully set up.
Festo AG is a global player and an independent family-owned company with headquarters in Esslingen am Neckar, Germany. The company supplies pneumatic and electrical automation technology to 300,000 customers of factory and process automation in over 40 industries. The products and services are available in 176 countries. With about 20,100 employees in over 250 branch offices in 61 countries worldwide, Festo achieved a turnover of around €3.1 billion in 2017. Each year around 8 % of this turnover is invested in research and development. In this learning company, 1.5 % of turnover is invested in basic and further training. Yet training services are not only provided for Festo's own staff – Festo Didactic SE also supplies basic and further training programmes in the field of automation technology for customers, students and trainees.
About Festo Netherlands:
Founded in 1967 and with its head office in Delft since 1989, Festo Netherlands has 163 employees, many of whom have an engineering background. This Festo national company is the market leader in the Netherlands and achieved a turnover of €83 million in 2017.